Last week the United States Patent and Trademark office decided that the Washington “Redskins” logo and name were disparaging to Native Americans in the United States and cancelled patent protection for the logo and name.
As a First Nations person this is a satisfying moral victory on the one hand, but on the other hand, it begs the question: Why have the owners of the Thorold Blackhawks not changed their logo for the hockey team in that Niagara, Ontario community?
Much like the situation garnering national attention South of the Niagara River, Niagara has its own controversy over the Thorold Blackhawks logo. Local Niagara area Aboriginal community member Mitch Baird has been working hard to bring attention to the offensive logo and the town of Thorold will be removing it from the arena funded by taxpayer money.
The team owners who may possibly be wary of the financial ramifications of changing the logo could easily follow the model of the Nepean “Redskins” who graduated out their teams name and looked to the community for the financial support needed to make the change.
The key difference between Nepean and Thorold is a willingness to change. The team is steadfast in its support of the racist logo stating on its official website: “It helps our children to learn history and pass a valuable heritage on to succeeding generations.”
The history that it seems to be showing my children is that racism is alive and well in Thorold. I could maybe buy the “we are honoring you” argument if the logo wasn’t so ignorant.
When my Oneida father served with the Army overseas it was because he saw it as a duty to protect the freedom that we all enjoy. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy declared war on the Nazi threat in World War II and our warriors, including my grandfather, answered the call of duty to support freedom on Turtle Island. This is a history that I am proud of and that I want to pass on to succeeding generations.
When I think of Thorold I think of its attractive downtown area, its special place in the history of the canal project, I beam with pride that NHL players Nathan Horton, Owen Nolan and Dwayne Roloson laced up their skates here in Niagara playing for Thorold. This is more history and honour that should be shared.
What should not be shared is that this wonderful town’s rich history was associated with a logo that is at best insensitive, at worst a racist reminder that many aboriginals were subjugated by the Canadian government and the private sector followed this lead by expropriation of our symbols and leaders as mascots.
It is 2014 and Canada’s most populated province has a lesbian woman as a Premier. There is a highway named after Canada’s first black Member of Parliament. Canada would bask in its progressive pride if not for its lack of remediation with Native people.
The racist Thorold Blackhawks logo is not an honour. We First Nations people are not your mascots. Is it too much to ask in 2014 that the owners of the Thorold hockey team actually honour the thousands of Natives in the Niagara area by changing the logo?
Karl Dockstader is a resident of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Turtle Island. He is a father, husband, and lover of all of creation, including animals, and is an occasional contributor to www.niagaraatlarge.com, the blog where this article was first published.